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William Bayliss: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
You can fail at one thing but be extremely successful in another. This is exemplified really well by Sir William Maddock Bayliss. Find out more about this man and his work in this lesson.

William Bayliss

Medicine is based on the foundations of anatomy and physiology. Anatomy tells us about structures and their locations while physiology ties in the processes of these various structures. One man was kind of a failure at one and a resounding success at the other. Who was he? William Maddock Bayliss.

Let's find out more about this man in this lesson.

Early Life & Education

Bayliss was born on May 2nd, 1860 in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England to Moses Bayliss and Jan Maddock. His dad founded Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss, a manufacturer of metallic goods. Bayliss went to a private school in Wolverhampton as a child.

Later on, he entered University College in London. He studied anatomy and physiology but eventually failed the anatomy exam. So, he concentrated on studying physiology. Here, he was under the tutelage of John Burdon-Sanderson, a physiologist and Ray Lankester, a zoologist. Bayliss wound up going to Oxford alongside Sanderson, who took up a position there. Later, Bayliss returned to University College for the rest of his life.

Scientific Work

During his time at University College, Bayliss worked his way up to become professor of general physiology in 1912. He also served as the editor of a journal called Physiological Abstracts from 1923 to 1924.

His most important work was the co-discovery, alongside physiologist Ernest Starling, of nothing less than hormones! These men conducted experiments on anesthetized dogs. They noticed that digested food and hydrochloric acid, when found in the first part of the intestinal tract, triggered the secretion of a biochemical they ended up calling secretin. Secretin, a kind of hormone, would then move via the bloodstream to another part of the body, the pancreas, to cause the release of digestive juices from this gland.

Both men also helped describe the peristaltic wave, which refers to intestinal tract motility, and developed a better blood pressure measuring device.

During World War I, Bayliss served on the Wound Shock Committeee of the Medical Research Committee. His work for this organization helped save many lives during World War I as he recommended the injection of gum-saline in order to treat wound shock.

William Bayliss
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Personal Life

In 1893, Bayliss married Gertrude Starling, the sister of Ernest Starling, and they went on to have three sons and a daughter. They had a large home together set on a four acre piece of land. Their home had two tennis courts and even a private lab! Here, the happy and healthy couple would often entertain their colleagues. As you can tell, Bayliss wasn't short of money during his lifetime.

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